Leaders – Jesus, Clinton, Wagoner



I think of Reading for Leading as a community – even a family – of readers. So, I usually steer by the adage of not talking at the dinner table about politics or religion. With the hope of staying non-sectarian and non-partisan, I want to trip that way just a little today.

In the Christian experience, this week lies between two polar experiences of leadership. Yesterday, called Palm Sunday, Jesus is welcomed into Jerusalem like the cult hero he was, a growing number believing he was the long-awaited Messiah. Suddenly his “approval ratings” plummeted, so that at the end of this same week we commemorate his crucifixion.

Leadership is dangerous. Groups love heroes . . . and villains. Think: Madoff to Jewish charities. Think Enron to Houston’s civic world. Think Pete Rose or Barry Bonds to sports fans. I just finished the section on Bill Clinton in pollster Stan Greenberg’s excellent memoir Dispatches from the War Room. If you compress Clinton’s leadership on a timeline you see sharp peaks and valleys, the latest being the sad and ironic campaign experience, where the man referred to as “America’s first Black President” sharply attacked the man who became that first President.

In the annals of leaders’ deaths, and sometime resurrections, this past week brought us Rick Wagoner, the toppled CEO of General Motors. “Scapegoat,” he was called, in a blood-letting that reminds us of an ancient thirst for expiation. The hurt, anger, and fear of “the crowd” still raging, they want Wall Street “scapegoats,” too. I suspect that while you’re reading this, some readers have already clicked the “comments” button on the bottom and are going after Clinton, defending Jesus, or wondering why I don’t see how villainous those Wall Street CEOs are.

So, I only want to make one point: Leadership is dangerous work. Keeping constituents happy is hard work – triply so when you’re pushing them to change in uncertain times. School students, teenage children, government bureaucrats, well-rewarded executives don’t like to be stressed. Be careful. But lead anyway! Clinton and Wagoner may not have done enough, but they brought extraordinary change. And the impact of Jesus hardly needs to be stated. Stick to your convictions and

Lead with your best self,


Audio File:  Leaders – Jesus, Clinton, Wagoner